Gary’s Coaching Thought for the Week

“No one likes to be criticised. Few people get better with criticism; most respond to encouragement instead. So I tried to give encouragement when I could. For a player – for any human being – there is nothing better than hearing “Well done”. Those are the two best words ever invented. You don’t need to use superlatives.”

– Sir Alex Ferguson

This quote from Sir Alex Ferguson reminded me of a previous thought for the week. Hope you enjoy re-looking at the article below:

When I started my coaching career in 2004 there were two important principles I learnt from the two best coaches I ever had as a young player. The one was a cricket coach and the other a rugby coach and they were both brilliant at following this principle.

The first principle was to spend more time encouraging and praising performance rather than focusing too much on errors. The second was to never criticise a player’s performance in front of his/her team mates, whether face to face or group messaging. These two principles I have followed rigorously in my coaching career, as I know what an impact it had on me as a player. 

When coaches highlighted my errors in front of my team mates, it was the worst thing they could do to my sense of self – worth and my confidence.

Often, these coaches thought that creating fear by public scrutiny would make me a better player, but they were wrong. Alternatively, there was nothing better for my confidence when a coach praised my performance in front of my team mates. It gave me credibility amongst my peers and made me feel like I was adding value to the greater team cause. Most importantly, it made me want to give my best for the coach.

As a coach I have been extremely mindful to use the right tone and language when facilitating a debrief of a team or an individual player’s performance. Naturally, in every match, there are errors and mistakes. Players are human beings, not performance tools or machines and they will make mistakes. This is what makes coaching such a skillful practise. How we choose to respond is vital to our credibility and quality as a coach. We must never forget, we are coaching the person not the position.

Below is a list of useful methods to make your coaching more effective and credible:

  • Regardless of the result, always highlight what your team did well. If they did nothing well then don’t say anything – they know!!!

  • Every match provides an opportunity to learn. Facilitate a session where the players can learn from errors. A simple question… “what can we learn from yesterday’s match?”. 
Instead of focusing on what they did wrong, frame the meeting on what they can do better next time (solutions!).

When assessing an individual player’s errors, do it one on one and ask him what he thought he could have done better. 
And then give your view… “I thought you did some really good things on the field yesterday. However, I would like you to consider or try this in the next game.”

The best coaches I worked with were always looking for and highlighting the best in me. Whilst I had a lot to learn along my playing journey, they never criticised me publicly but still helped me understand how I could improve and cleverly nudged me in the right direction.

Gary Kirsten

CoachED Cricket Founder

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